Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Back to Skool

So last week I had a chance to impart some of my wisdom (well that may be a stretch) into the brains of a bunch of high school sophomores.  It was at Grand Ledge High School which is in the town where I live.  I had known the chemistry teacher there for awhile, and always wanted to give a presentation about farming and soil chemistry.  As ag professionals, we are called to try and bridge the gap between the ag and non-ag public.  And these days that bridge is pretty long.  So I was able to work my way into guest lecturer status for three beginning chemistry classes before 75 or so kids.  In the picture above I am giving a brief company introduction, but I did not get into products.  Instead I wanted to show how the soil is full of chemical reactions necessary for life.  Reactions are both chemical and biological (like N-fixing bacteria and soybeans).  It all starts with charges on clay, nutrient exchange and forms of nutrients absorbed by plants.  There is no difference in forms absorbed whether from organic or manufactured fertilizer.  And since fertilizer nutrients come from the air and ground, farming is the ultimate in recycling as nutrients are returned to the ground for use by plants.  I also showed nutrient deficiencies, farmer decisions to be made, careers in agriculture (like the constant joy of being a research manager) and showed the IQ Hub and invited them to stop by.  I also delved into the fun subject of GMO crops. Well somebody had too.  It was all good, but hopefully most of these young minds will be guided by science and not emotion.  In all things. That goes for you too.  By the way, teaching is hard.  Imagine coming up with a lesson plan each day, repeating it several times in a row, and keeping the kids engaged.  Plus the lunch time of 10:30 would be tough to get used to. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Enjoying the View...Then It's Gone

So this time of year it is almost always cloudy here in Mid-Michigan.  But the other afternoon it was clear and there was a really nice sunset.  So naturally I had to take pictures.  You have to be quick as it doesn't stick around too long.  The next two are from ground level just outside the door near my cubi...I mean work station.

Then I went upstairs to the observation deck and took these pictures of the backside of the building lit up by the sunset.

By the way, there is no waiting on outside seating these days.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Measuring Up

So what is probably the last data collection activity of the 2014 season took place last week.  But it wasn't at the NCRS, but rather in a cherry orchard up in the Northern Michigan town of Kewadin. That's up by Traverse City, the Cherry Capitol, on the Grand Traverse Bay.  It's really pretty up there no matter when you go.  But it was definitely a cold day when Brian and Jake went up to take tree measurements to monitor the effects of in-season applications of Fase2 on tart cherry trees.  I showed pictures of this same operation last year, but this was Jake's first journey there.  They measured tree height and trunk diameter of both three- and five year old trees to compare treated and untreated trees.  Results will appear in the forthcoming Research Report.  But so far, so good. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

So Where Do Walnuts Come From? Check this out....

So I have been informed that some people did not receive their e-mail dispatch of the November 24 blog post about my adventures in California.  This is unlike the www.blogger.com site that I have used for well over four years.  But everyone is entitled to one mix-up.  So I am re-posting it in hopes that the magic e-mail function will engage this time.  If you did get it on time, then hit delete.  If you did not, then read it first before you hit delete.  Thanks........



So a couple weeks ago I made my way out to California.  I was met by a crew of AgroLiquid field managers: Regional Sales Manager Stuart, Field Agronomist JW and Sales Account Manager Armando.  And me from Research, so you can't get more diverse than that. Well it is winter and there isn't much growing, and the trip was mostly for meetings. But Sales Account Manager Armando knew of a nearby fertilizer comparison in walnuts.  So of course we wanted to see it.  It was two adjacent 40 acre blocks where everything was the same...except the potassium fertilizer.  That's one of the blocks below. 

Well these trees didn't look so great.  Look at these leaves.  That's potassium deficiency with the necrotic leaf margins.  Not sure, but maybe some sodium accumulation too from the irrigation lines. But I didn't have a soil or irrigation water analysis.  Well it turns out this side was fertilized with KTS, or potassium thio-sulfate.  Not sure of the rates or timing.  But it wasn't working.

Well the next block received 3 gal/A of Kalibrate through the irrigation lines and 3 foliar applications of 3 gal/A of Sure-K.  Now this was the first walnut grove I had ever been in, but I could see that this side looked a lot better.

Here is a leaflet from the KTS side next to one from the AgroLiquid side.  Pretty sharp differences. Of course it looks too good to be true, but all I know is what I was told.  And Armando is the man.  

The walnuts were recently picked, and we will see if the yield is reflective of the tree appearance. But the grower was greatly impressed and said Kalibrate and Sure-K will be on all of the trees in the future.  Wise choice.  Below the fertilizer guys reflect on what we have seen.  JW sees that the highly usable potassium from Kalibrate and Sure-K are superior nutrient sources.  Armando is happy for the grower and the future sale.  Stuart crosses Walnuts off the list of new crops benefited by AgroLiquid. Me?  All this talk of walnuts was making me hungry.  So what's for dinner? 

So more research and evaluations are forthcoming in California.  However I should add that the biggest factor affecting crops in CA these days is lack of water.  The drought persists, although it did rain some my last night there in Sacramento.  Hope for more. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Fertilizer Mission to....Florida.

So recently I went down to Florida on a fertilizer mission to check on some important field investigations.  I was accompanied by AgroLiquid chemist Chris, and we were met by Field Agronomist Mike and Area Sales Manager Jim Dorman.  I have been reporting on the sugarcane field tests we have down in South Florida for over a year now.  The picture below shows how one area looked back on November 13, 2013.  It was planted around six weeks earlier.  I remember that it was cool and cloudy that day.
And here is the same area as it looked on this November 18, almost exactly a year later.  The cane is over 10 feet tall now.  It's still green on the field edges, but go in a little and the leaves are turning brown and the cane is firm and ready for harvest.  It was also very cool and cloudy with rain when we were there again this year. Although the weather back in Michigan that day was very cold and snowing. So it was alright getting a little wet.
I found it's hard to capture the perspective with the camera.  But you can see the cane stalks standing up there.  The harvest season stretches from October to April with nearly 200,000 acres running through the mill in Clewiston. It is the large number of acres and the single mill that controls when a particular area is to be harvested.  But when it is time, the field will be burned to remove the dead leaves, with the stalks remaining to be collected and taken to the mill.  I have seen this burning operation from a distance.  At first I thought it would be a long and slow process like a forest fire. But it is really fast, since just the leaves burn.  It does create a lot of smoke and I wonder how that is perceived by the public.  But that's the only way to get the cane out of the field.  It will also be a challenge for the company field personnel to keep track of the yields from the different treatment blocks of our nearly 1000 acre experiment.  But we have been assured that it would happen.  Sounds good to me.
Here we see Chris satisfying his sweet tooth while Mike makes sure he doesn't go overboard on it. By the way, Chris is wired up for a meeting back in St. Johns.  Hope they didn't hear him slurping up the sugar.
We also had the opportunity to stop by Jim's blueberry farm to show us how he meters fertilizer into the irrigation drip lines in the field.  Fertilizer is sucked from that recessed ground tank into the main water lines using a venturi effect.  This is where the pressure of water passing through the big pipes creates suction to draw fertilizer from the tank. Mike is certainly intrigued. 
Jim hopes to be transplanting the blueberry plants soon, but heavy rain is holding that off for awhile. Here Chris watches water being pumped from the field into a drainage basin.  He also is being reminded that he shouldn't have had so much coffee for breakfast.
We also wanted to follow up on some orange projects with some growers.  Many people are not aware of the devastating disease affecting citrus trees on a world-wide basis.  It is called citrus greening or HLB disease.  It is a bacterial disease that clogs up the phloem of citrus trees.  The vector is an insect called the Asian Citrus Psyllid. It feeds on the leaves and infects the plants.  There is no known control, and they have really been trying.  Of course on way is to control the psyllid by spraying, but this hasn't really stopped it.  It is really making growing oranges tough for growers, and has affected price as this picture taken in a grocery store by Mike attests.  The sign says it has affected "50% of the citrus crop".  But I understand that it is nearly on the total crop in Florida.
Here is the symptom on the leaves.  They are mis-shapen and chlorotic.  
The affected fruit is lighter green (vs orange, or orange green), there is fruit drop, and it can lead to death and tree removal.  We saw some small re-planted trees that were already infected.  One strategy being tested is to load up the tree with nutrition, especially micronutrients, in order to keep the phloem open.  This isn't a cure but more of a coping mechanism.
We visited several juice orange groves that have received both drip and foliar applications of AgroLiquid nutrition.  Like this one below.  There are still the yellowed leaves, but it appears that production is still going to be good.  We saw few dropped oranges.  Of course, the grower will let us know after harvest, which should be soon.  We have some comparison treatments that will hopefully help guide us towards some relief for this terrible disease.
 As you can see here, the inside of the orange looks fine.  And it certainly passed my taste test.
So my visit to the Sunshine State was very worthwhile with the crop updates, some good food and as we just saw, oranges.  The only thing missing was the Sunshine.  But I'll be back.

Monday, November 24, 2014

So Where Do Walnuts Come From? Check this out....


So a couple weeks ago I made my way out to California.  I was met by a crew of AgroLiquid field managers: Regional Sales Manager Stuart, Field Agronomist JW and Sales Account Manager Armando.  And me from Research, so you can't get more diverse than that. Well it is winter and there isn't much growing, and the trip was mostly for meetings. But Sales Account Manager Armando knew of a nearby fertilizer comparison in walnuts.  So of course we wanted to see it.  It was two adjacent 40 acre blocks where everything was the same...except the potassium fertilizer.  That's one of the blocks below. 
Well these trees didn't look so great.  Look at these leaves.  That's potassium deficiency with the necrotic leaf margins.  Not sure, but maybe some sodium accumulation too from the irrigation lines. But I didn't have a soil or irrigation water analysis.  Well it turns out this side was fertilized with KTS, or potassium thio-sulfate.  Not sure of the rates or timing.  But it wasn't working.
Well the next block received 3 gal/A of Kalibrate through the irrigation lines and 3 foliar applications of 3 gal/A of Sure-K.  Now this was the first walnut grove I had ever been in, but I could see that this side looked a lot better.
Here is a leaflet from the KTS side next to one from the AgroLiquid side.  Pretty sharp differences. Of course it looks too good to be true, but all I know is what I was told.  And Armando is the man.  
The walnuts were recently picked, and we will see if the yield is reflective of the tree appearance. But the grower was greatly impressed and said Kalibrate and Sure-K will be on all of the trees in the future.  Wise choice.  Below the fertilizer guys reflect on what we have seen.  JW sees that the highly usable potassium from Kalibrate and Sure-K are superior nutrient sources.  Armando is happy for the grower and the future sale.  Stuart crosses Walnuts off the list of new crops benefited by AgroLiquid. Me?  All this talk of walnuts was making me hungry.  So what's for dinner? 
So more research and evaluations are forthcoming in California.  However I should add that the biggest factor affecting crops in CA these days is lack of water.  The drought persists, although it did rain some my last night there in Sacramento.  Hope for more. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Southwest Ag, Inc...Worth The Drive

So the first week of November I ventured out to see Southwest Ag, Inc owned by Dan Swanson, who is a long-time AgroLiquid dealer.  Where is Southwest Ag anyway?  Arizona?  New Mexico? Would you believe...North Dakota?  But it is in the Southwest corner of North Dakota in the town of Bowman.  They also have a facility in Mandan, which is next to Bismarck, the capitol of North Dakota.  I remember making my first trip out there from the Bismarck airport many years ago.  As we headed south from the interstate, it was pretty dry and barren.  I wondered what they grew there that needed fertilizer?  Well as you got closer, there is kind of a valley where there is lot's of good farmland suitable for crops.  They grow spring wheat, winter wheat, corn and some soybeans among others. And their business also extends South into South Dakota and West into Montana.  It's a nice place. On this trip, I actually made a couple of presentations at some grower meetings held out there. I thought they were good, and I'm rarely wrong on such things.  But I was greatly impressed by all of the fertilizer storage they have.  How many gallons can they hold?  Well, it's probably quite a few. So if you are farming in the area, stop by and fill up.  Or they will bring it to you.  Either way, it's worth the drive!